Parents doing grassroots work for Primary 1 priority

From ‘Stricter Primary 1 priority rules for grassroots workers’, 12 June 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

PARENTS who become grassroots volunteers in the hope of getting priority for their children in the Primary 1 registration exercise will have to serve twice as long as before. They will have to do at least two years of grassroots work, not one, to qualify for the benefit. They will also be restricted to schools in the constituency where they live. Up to now, grassroots leaders could get priority for their children in schools near their homes as well as in the constituencies where they volunteered.

…The scheme qualifies active grassroots volunteers for Phase 2B of the Primary 1 registration exercise, which also includes parents who are school volunteers or have church or clan associations. Earlier phases of the registration are for siblings of current pupils or children of past pupils. About 400 children enrol in primary schools under the active community leaders scheme each year, less than 1 per cent of the Primary 1 cohort, according to a parliamentary reply by the Education Ministry last year.

But long-time grassroots leaders say it is not uncommon to see a surge in the number of people who apply to be community leaders a year before their child is due to register for Primary 1. Lawyer Kenneth Au-Yong, a member of the Ulu Pandan citizens’ consultative committee who is in his 50s, said: “When you have a popular school within the constituency, volunteers will come to you. You don’t have to look for them.” The Ulu Pandan division under the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC has four popular primary schools: Henry Park Primary, Nanyang Primary, Methodist Girls’ School and Raffles Girls’ Primary School.

Mr Au-Yong said he has seen parents dropping out of activities and grassroots meetings once their children start school.

“We should not allow the system to be abused like this’.

When grassroots leader and RC chairman Lawrence Chong was caught fighting for free textbooks and shouting at teenage volunteers in 1995 like an Ugly Singaporean, he defended his right to freebies by saying that ‘grassroots leaders should be given priority’ to the books. In an interview, he said that his breed was ‘hard to come by’ and it would be a slight incentive to people willing to step up to do grassroots duty. He eventually resigned under pressure, but probably still lives in a 4 room flat plus private property till this day.

The benefits of RC affiliations extend down to kindergarten registration as well. Already in 1992, you’d stand a higher chance of scoring a place in your neighbourhood PCF if you’re a PAP grassroots leader living in the ward. Housing is another perk of the job. From 1990-1994, a total of 745 grassroots leaders were given priority allocation for HDB flats. And once you’ve earned the flat, you also get free parking between 7 am and 11pm at HDB carparks within your constituency. Not forgetting the occasional National Day Award. You also stand a higher chance of taking a selfie with PM Lee than the man on the street.

The nature of school and housing incentives for grassroots leaders tends to draw gut-level ire from ordinary folk because of the relative scarcity of these ‘privileges’. If grassroots leaders were given tax breaks, NTUC discounts or free daily entry into the Istana, few would complain. It’s the queue-jumping that gets people crying foul. Aren’t these people supposed to have a flaming ‘passion for servant leadership’? ‘Servants’ don’t go around asking for free kopi, or demand to be first in line for preschool registration, do they? Shouldn’t they be painting banners or holding car doors open for MPs or something? If parents quit their jobs to commit to volunteering full-time in schools for priority placing, we call them kiasu. If a grassroots leader does it, we feel cheated and accuse the PA of breeding a class of selfish bourgeois lackeys who’re in it only to get their kids into branded schools.

Most grassroots workers, PAP or otherwise, serve out of pure goodwill and generally like being around neighbours, have a fetish for organising events, or love meeting new people without personal ambitions of getting ahead in life like the typical kiasu Singaporean. They’re usually not PAP ‘runners’, bodyguards or elite cronies throwing their weight around. But extension of grassroots service alone isn’t going to filter out those with ulterior motives. What’s needed is a more robust screening process and a penalty for those seeking to abuse the system for personal gain, like the public shaming of freeloading black sheep like book-grabbing Lawrence Chong. After all, you may get thrown into jail for lying about where you live when applying for priority placing. Putting on an elaborate act for the sake of tangible benefits for a year or two is just prolonged, inconspicuous lying.

Perhaps the grass is greener as a RC volunteer, only because of all the shit that’s fed into it.

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Parents hiring private eyes to spy on children overseas

From ‘More parents hiring private eyes to check on their kids’, 14 Oct 2013, article by Jalelah Abu Baker, ST

A GROWING number of parents are sending private investigators to check whether their children have gone astray, sometimes even overseas. Eight out of 10 private eye agencies contacted by The Straits Times said they have seen a rise in such cases.

Mr David Ng, 37, director of private investigation firm DP Quest, said his company has seen a 20 per cent year-on-year increase in such requests. “Parents get worried when they see changes in their children’s behaviour – for example, if they get a tattoo, or start staying out late,” he said, explaining the reasons his clients usually cite. The children are usually in their teens, in secondary school or polytechnic.

…For some parents, there is even more reason to track their children when they are studying overseas. Said Mr S.M. Jegan, 61, from private investigation firm Kokusai: “Parents send us overseas as they want to see how their children are spending their money, and whether they are in relationships.” Sometimes, parents get worried when their children become uncontactable or do not return to Singapore as planned.

Sending private investigators to countries like the United States and Britain is far more expensive – it can cost about $20,000 for five days of tracking.

Our boy just said YOLO to that girl on the phone. Is that code for SEX?

Why send a child overseas to study in the first place if you need to spend tens of thousands just to make sure he’s not having orgies and smoking pot in his hostel? Getting private detectives to spy on kids is at least a decade-old practice. In 2004, an agency called Covert Acquisition was hired to plant bugs on kids’ computers to track their activity in chatrooms. 5 years later, parents are hiring PIs to spy on their kids’ sex lives. Today, you can secretly download covert apps like Handphone Spy to read your children’s Whatsapp or Line messages, which seems like a last resort when your kid refuses to be your Facebook friend.  Even our government is keenly tracking Facebook users as we speak. The catch with apps like Handphone Spy is that physical access is required for installation, which means a parent needs to snoop and deceive in order to get their hands on their kid’s phone. The solution to busybodies tampering with your phone, of course, is to bring it EVERYWHERE you go. But then again, that’s already happening. Not just kids, but adults are all Candy Crushing while pooping.

Everything a PI does to intrude into your personal life seems to be within legal boundaries. According to the Kokusai FAQs, however, it is ‘illegal’ to ‘use software to spy SMSes or track the movement of a person’, but yet you can purchase mobile phone tracking apps or buy spy gizmos to tap into computer activity freely from Sim Lim Square. Apparently there are technically no ‘privacy laws’ in Singapore to speak of, and though companies like Handphone Spy advise against stalking suspicious spouses or ex-girlfriends because it’s deemed ‘an intrusion of privacy’, it seems perfectly OK to track your kid from the moment you pack his school lunch bag till he starts logging into the Internet after he comes home, because you’re ‘exercising your rights’ as a concerned parent. Even if it means drilling a tiny pinhole in your kid’s room to peep if he’s masturbating to porn instead of studying for the PSLE. Handphone Spy even endorses bosses rigging their employees’ phones because it ‘empowers YOU to get the answers you want and deserve to have’. The perfect tool for the paranoid, the insecure, and the general dirty bastard.

Despite the technology available, there’s still a surging demand for professional stealth work by parents afraid of infringing privacy laws or who lack the time or IT savvy to DIY their own investigations. If I were a kid again I would rather my parents take the day off to track me instead of paying a hired gun to do the dirty job. Even if they fail miserably in their attempt to catch me in the act of having a life after school, I would appreciate their efforts for it, though I’d probably hate them for the rest of puberty. They’re just parents being parents, and before the Internet or cellphones they did stuff like search under your bed for secret diaries and girly mags. But when they need to pay a third party to nab me for trivial things, I’m likely to hate them for much longer for making me feel like a cheating mistress or an undercover loan shark runner. Especially when I’m doing NOTHING wrong.

Instead of sending PIs on an overseas espionage mission codenamed ‘Hostel Gangbang’, how about springing surprise ‘visits’ as a cover for spying? Or better still save the spy fees and instead send gifts, handwritten letters or up your cash allowance to make them feel guilty for drinking beer or smoking for the first time. And kids aren’t stupid either; the moment they suspect they’re being spied on, they’ll start installing anti-spyware-spyware, reading up websites on ‘signs that you’re being followed’ or better still, hire their own PIs to snitch out their parents’ PIs ala Spy vs Spy. Since most PIs are also ex-cops, you may also try dropping some Kripsy Kreme doughnuts here and there to throw your follower off the scent. I wonder if security companies offer counter-spy services at a discount rate under the table as well. Seems like a lucrative, perfectly legit business opportunity to me.

Children burning schoolwork after PSLE

From ‘Burning question on post-PSLE ‘celebration’, 10 Oct 2013, ST

(Desiree Tan): IT SADDENED me to read about a group of children and parents burning school material right after the Primary School Leaving Examination (“Post-PSLE book-burning photo inflames netizens”; Tuesday). While I agree with netizens that these items should be recycled or given to needy pupils, the more disturbing issue is the celebratory connotation of the act of burning to signify the end of a major examination.

I can understand people blaming the system for placing too great an emphasis on exam grades. I can also understand that in their quest to excel, children experience a great deal of stress sitting the PSLE.

But to use these reasons to justify the act of burning school material is inexcusable. Are we teaching 12-year-olds that once they complete the PSLE, they can burn away what they have learnt?

What is the point of achieving stellar results if our children grow up with such thinking? The damage that has been done is far more serious than just killing trees.

We did start the fire

We did start the fire

Bonfire organiser Arnold Gay said the symbolic act of destroying schoolwork was ‘cathartic and fun’. One critic of the celebration said ‘books and writings’ should be revered and are a ‘sacred part of civilisation’ as if they were magical scrolls or scripture (We were not burning textbooks, says Kiss92 DJ Arnold Gay, 9 Oct 2013).  While my sympathies go to the authors of such assessment books or worksheets, tossing educational material into the fire isn’t a culmination of resentment against the system or deliberately erasing from memory everything primary school taught us so much as a stark, dramatic exaggeration of what people actually do with their old worksheets after the PSLE.  Not many of us would laminate them and stack them nicely in a chest as an heirloom to our descendents, hoping that they would look upon our maths notes like they just stumbled upon ancient manuscripts that foretell the ultimate fate of the Universe.

During my time there were no recycling bins to speak of, and most of what I threw away would have ended up disintegrating into ashes in the incinerator anyway. In fact, the most heinous acts of violence on school material were performed BEFORE the actual exam. Wooden rulers were snapped, pages were stabbed with pens and flunked test papers were ripped to shreds, sometimes by angry parents themselves. The holiest of tomes have been vandalised by the luminous scrawling of highlighter pens, battered into tatters, riddled with stains, disfigured by ugly dog ears and left to die like they were humiliated and gangraped a thousand times over. Though sometimes that is EXACTLY how some kids feel when they’re taking the PSLE. Better we take it out on homework than on ourselves, I say. A search on Youtube will reveal the many creative ways that liberated kids around the world destroy their schoolwork, by torching it with an acetylene flame, flushing it down a toilet, or literally letting their DOG EAT the damn thing.

I would imagine kids hurling schoolwork into the flames with the hedonistic zest of one destroying the autobiography of a ruthless dictator, the belongings of a spouse’s illicit lover, or the Pope condemning to Eternal Hell ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. There is nothing ‘sacred’ about mass-produced assessment sheets, and there’s no reason to treat the act as if someone blew up the National Archives and important knowledge has been lost forever, that these book-burning kids would grow up into rebellious troublemakers who would run their bosses’ family photo through the office shredder. Still, you shouldn’t need to make a party out of it like Arnold Gay did, and any torture that you’d wish to inflict on your notes just to fulfill your wildest, sickest fantasy should be performed in strictest privacy, like how I would gyrate to Ricky Martin songs when nobody’s watching.

Arnold Gay didn’t round up some Satanists to burn bibles or the Declaration of Independence, but such tribal abandon strikes me as rather premature. Let’s hope his kids actually PASS the exam, otherwise it’s not just assessment papers, but hopes and aspirations, that go up in flames.

Parents taking courses to help their kids score in PSLE

From ‘PSLE parents take classes to help children’, 24 Aug 2013, article by Benita Aw Yeong, TNP

The subject of PSLE came up in this year’s National Day Rally, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledging the high level of stress families go through because of this exam.

Parents are getting creative, especially when it comes to helping their kids cope – they are not only sending their children to tuition, but going for classes themselves.

They are also exploring hypnotherapy to help the children manage exam stress and build confidence.

According to the Chinese press, there are at least two enrichment centres offering adult programmes, Maths Heuristics and Neuromath Academy. For $320 a couple, you can attend a Maths Heuristics workshop for 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon. Norman Tien from Neuromaths has offered free workshops with titles like ‘How to Prepare Your Child for PSLE’, which gives you handy tips like telling your kid to start cramming for the paper when he’s PRIMARY 5. Another free workshop which focuses on Cognitive Skills is pitched as ‘highly recommended for parents preparing children to enter ELITE primary schools‘. If you’re someone who spends sleepless nights trying to solve Primary School problem sums even if you have no children yourself, and your dream is to become a Sudoku World Champion, then your prayers have been answered.

Although there are seminars for the students themselves (as if tuition alone isn’t enough) – it’s clearly the parents who are targetted in Neuromaths’ workshop ads because no kid in his right mind would fork out $198 to sit through a 1 day (9 to 5pm) Maths seminar on a SUNDAY. Nevermind what our ministers say about banding, elitism, keeping top scorers hush-hush or how ‘good’ every school is.  It doesn’t matter if the exam is about applying what you learnt in school over 6 years, or a test to see how long it takes for you to conquer a maze like a lab rat. A parent willing to do ridiculous, costly things to put their kids in the ‘right’ school in this national obsession with grades would pump their kids (and themselves) with mind/body-enhancing drugs if these were freely available (Parents are already seeing psychiatrists for anxiety disorders before PSLE, like how dads experience sympathetic pregnancy symptoms). Until then, we just have to settle for Brands Essence of Chicken, or hypnotherapy.

Last year, One Hypnosis organised a $100 (parent and child) event called ‘Power Up! Kids’, which aimed to enhance focus and concentration skills in children preparing for PSLE, though it sounds like a training camp for aspiring Power Rangers. At least it involved some exercise rather than sitting around an entire day listening to maths gurus unleash your genius within, but perhaps you could achieve the same tonic effect on your well-being for FREE, like a family day at the beach for instance.  I think it may be more helpful to apply the powers of suggestion to treat the parents’ anxiety and morbid fixation with PSLE rather than on the kids themselves, who are better off being ‘psycho-ed’ into quitting Facebook games and eating their vegetables because no workshop on ‘higher order thinking’ or brain-yoga is going to help if you eat junk food everyday.

It’s not just children alone taking the PSLE anymore. Parents have become so engrossed in it to the point of quitting their jobs for the sake of their kids, short of taking the paper themselves. All this, in addition to the humdrum stress of daily living. Kids have become mere flesh surrogates to the wills of their parents, like jacked up, expensive remote control cars in a death race to the finish. We can only hope they don’t crash and burn.

Children younger than 10 committing suicide

From ‘Younger victims a cause for concern’ 14 July 2013, article by Kash Cheong, Sunday Times

It is a chilling statistic. Last year, a boy became the first child in the five-to-nine age group to commit suicide here in at least 10 years.

“There are rarely any deaths in this age group because children do not understand the concept of death,” said psychiatrist Chia Boon Hock who has studied decades of suicide data in Singapore…”Some of them might think that death means closing your eyes, but you can wake up tomorrow…The coroner must have found evidence beyond doubt that this is a suicide.”

Seventeen teenagers aged 10 to 19 killed themselves last year, the second highest figure among this age group for the past five years, the Registry of Births and Deaths statistics also showed. In 2009, the figure was 19.

Not only is it a chilling statistic, but it’s probably also one too distressing or unbelievable to report to the public when the boy’s suicide occurred last year. God knows what a child is thinking when he decides to end his life, but this is one act of extreme defiance that will haunt his parents forever. Instead of hushing up an unthinkable tragedy, someone needs to look into how a society like ours triggers self-destructive thoughts in children, who either have no understanding of what death is, or believe in the sweet euphemism that is heaven and the afterlife. Parents, think twice before telling your kid that Grandma or his dead hamster is in a ‘better place’.

In 2000 and 2001, a total of 12 children between 10 and 14 years old killed themselves in Singapore, then one of the highest rates of child suicide in the world. One of them, 10 year old Lysher Loh, believed to be stressed out from schoolwork, jumped to her death. Lysher had previously joked about suicide if her CHINESE grades didn’t improve. She was Primary 5. In the 1990s, a 9 year old boy hung himself in a bathroom in Ang Mo Kio during the mid-year school holidays (Boy, nine, found hanged in bathroom, 12 June 1992, ST). According to a book titled ‘Suicide in Asia and the Near East‘, a SEVEN-YEAR old committed suicide between 1969-1976.

Incidents of completed suicides among the very young may be very rare, but I believe many kids have at least thought about it in secret. In 1985, SOS received a call from a boy below 10 who wanted to die. He was believed to be influenced by a show called ‘A Dawn in Winter’, which depicted a girl signing a suicide pact with a friend. 4 years later, a parent explained to the ST Forum that they were migrating to Australia because her 9 year old son hated Chinese and wanted to kill himself over it. In 2008, helpline for kids Tinkle Friend reported a distraught LOWER PRIMARY kid who did very well for her exams, but still failed to satisfy her parents who expected a result BETTER than 90%. Today, a child may be considered a suicide risk if he suffers from a mental disorder, or gets a Facebook account before puberty and becomes a victim of cyberbullying. Not many in the field would point their fingers at ridiculously demanding parents.

As hard as it is to prevent children from leaping off buildings, it’s about time we reflect on how we’re educating our kids, examine the root of pediatric mental disorders and what society’s and families’ expectations of children are. We can no longer wait until our moody 7 year olds start drawing and sticking bloody images of death on their bedroom walls anymore.

My First Skool teacher abusing 3 year old boy

From Facebook post on 938 Live News, 7 July 2013,  and ‘Caught on camera:Woman abuses child at Toa Payoh childcare centre’, 7 July 2013,

Parents of a 3 year boy have lodged a police report against a pre-school teacher for allegedly abusing their son, and causing him to suffer a fracture on his leg. The incident allegedly happened on Friday morning at My First Skool Toa Payoh.

Video clips from CCTV recordings in the centre which showed the incident, have since gone viral. One clip showed a woman dragging a young boy to a corner of the classroom, and pushing him to the floor. A second clip showed the boy – still in the corner – trying but failing to stand on his own.

The boy’s mother told 938LIVE she was informed by staff of the centre while she was at work that her child was complaining of pain, and that he had had a fall. At the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, doctors confirmed the boy has a hairline fracture in his shin.

When the parents returned to the pre-school centre, they demanded to see the CCTV recording of the classroom, following which they filed a police report. When contacted, police confirmed they are investigating the incident.

(Asiaone): In what seems to be a shocking case of child abuse, a woman was caught on closed-circuit television cameras slamming a child repeatedly onto the ground….According to online comments, the child suffered a fractured left shin. A photo posted on Facebook showed the child’s leg in a plaster cast wrapped in bandages.

Reactions to the video have been strong, with most netizens condemning and criticising the woman’s actions. Most netizens empathised with the child’s parents, while others urged them to lodge a police report. Some have also called for the woman to be fired.

The term ‘childcare’ centre is a misnomer, because you might as well drop your child off at a dungeon. Singaporean parents have little choice really given their busy schedules, and are well aware of the risks of placing their precious tots in the hands of strangers. It’s rather premature to charge the teacher for almost breaking the toddler’s leg based on the CCTV though it does appear that she was manhandling the kid, with some hints of slapping going on. The teacher did carry the injured boy in her arms by the end of the second clip, though it’s not clear if she intended to send him for medical attention or dump him in a boiling cauldron.

If it’s not Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) putting your kid in the hospital it’s abusive teachers. In 2008, childcare teacher Hasanah Ahmad was charged and fined $4000 for causing unnecessary suffering to a 4 year old after dousing chili padi on his face. This followed a bout of mischief in which the boy hurled a wooden stick at another playmate. I don’t know what the childcare centre was doing leaving deadly weapons around the place, including the chili padi, or maybe it’s something women carry around in their purses to ward off rapists. Of course you can’t let a little budding gangster go scot-free for rioting with a dangerous weapon at the expense of other kids, but I’m sure they’re better ways of discouraging violent behaviour than using chemical warfare. And wasting perfectly good chili padi, too. Thanks to Hasanah’s chili attack, the boy has since developed a phobia of chili, and to me, that’s more depressing than a good ol’ fashioned butt-spanking.

Last year, a Madam Shida from Little Footprints Schoolhouse was fired after being accused of PINCHING a boy in the stomach, leaving a 20-CENT mark which she claimed was a mosquito bite. The kid had apparently been running around pissing all over the place and was in need for some tough love, though I doubt such forms of physical punishment would be of any use in toilet training. Using ‘mosquito bite’ as an excuse may not be a good idea either. In addition to MSF, parents may report you to NEA for exposing their kids to dengue.

If found guilty of abuse, the My First Skool culprit should be rightly brought to justice, but some of the knee-jerk comments by parents calling for hefty punishment may discourage those looking to childcare teaching as a profession. If every teacher got sacked because some concerned parent complained to the police of a swollen earlobe, who’s going to look after our babies in future? Robots with bolsters for arms, foam padding for fingers and speak in lullabies? What would anxious parents suggest to teachers then, if some feral kid runs amok in class? Do nothing or stop a child from his nonsense and you risk losing your job either way. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. This, by the way, is just the beginning of a cycle of senseless violence that will torment us from cradle to the grave. If you’re not hit in playschool, you’ll get it in primary school,  at the workplace, from your spouse, and eventually on your deathbed in a nursing home like Nightingale. 

It can be tough on childcare teachers really, the majority of whom I’m sure are perfectly kind and composed professionals who have to deal with problem children and agitated parents every day of their lives. They are usually the first to get scrutinised and reported to the police everytime a child gets hurt, be it a bruise or a thump in the eye. But sometimes it’s not so much an abuse of authority that damages the child, but because their classmates are really flesh-eating cannibals with gnashing teeth. Maybe HFMD isn’t the only contagion in child care centres, looking at the rate of kids attempting to eat each other. In 2010, a toddler, also from First Skool, was CHOMPED near the eye. The biter was labelled a ‘monster’ and the school was blamed for allowing it to happen. Maybe they didn’t serve enough milk and cookies there, but the simpler explanation is that Nature made some babies that way. A twin may gorge on another’s blood supply while still in the womb, for God’s sake. Disciplining a biter after an incident may be the worst thing a teacher can do, in fact. The parents of the bitten may sue you for negligence and those of the biter may sue you for abuse. Double whammy.

Other than being brutalised by teachers or left to fend themselves against serial biters, some parents think it’s equally cruel that a NTUC-run childcare centre spells ‘school’ as ‘Skool’. More like ‘My First Scar/Skar’, really. For some, like the chili victim or the boy who got body-slammed, those scars may very well be permanent.

Ilo Ilo child actor physically assaulted on set

From ‘Why was child actor caned’, 8 June 2013, Mailbag, ST

(Teo Eng Swee): I refer to the article, As Real As It Gets (SundayLife!, June 2), on the award- winning film Ilo Ilo directed by Anthony Chen.

It is stated that the child actor was caned for real several times in two takes while shooting a scene. I was taken aback to read that the child was physically assaulted in the name of achieving realism in the film. Even though his mother appeared to have consented to the caning, this seems to be wrong. Animals are humanely treated during filming. It seems to me that children should be treated to a much higher standard.

I hope that the relevant authorities, such as the Media Development Authority, Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Manpower, will set high standards that safeguard children who are working in the entertainment industry

Koh Jia Ler, 12, had no issue with being whipped on set. In fact, in the interview he said it was a ‘small thing to him’ and admitted that Mommy used to trounce him when he was younger. Which means some parents are still using the old fashioned method of discipline as recently as 2000. I believe a TWELVE year old actor should be mature and professional enough to deal with a little pain for the price of stardom. After all, this could be the very last time he may experience the once familiar hot sting of tough love. These days, men either have to PAY, or go on a graffiti rampage, to get some spanking dished out.

Only time will tell if being flogged for everyone in Cannes to see would leave psychological scars on a growing boy. Protective parents and human rights activists could be up in arms over Ilo Ilo for being too ‘gritty’ for its own good, but forget that they live in a country where even adults are systematically caned as a form of punishment. Foreign audiences familiar with our barbaric penalties would view the scene as a commentary of Singapore’s medieval caning ‘culture’, though modern parents, Singaporean or otherwise, generally shun the rod and spoil the child instead. Better they turn out to be brats who sleep with their iPads than hooked on Prozac and listen to goth. If a stern voice, fierce scowl and ‘reasoning’ works for your kid, then congrats. But if the little bastard turns out to be a problem child from hell, then perhaps a ‘light touch’ which celebrity parenting gurus rave about may be as useful as placing a crucifix on Godzilla.

But this isn’t the first time the dreaded Cane is featured in a local movie. Jack Neo unleashed his fury with one in ‘I Not Stupid Too’.

In the original I Not Stupid, Jack slapped the boy actor playing his son (Shawn Lee) till he BLED FROM THE NOSE. It was almost comical in its brutality. Damn it Jack, either you’re paying your child actors too well or you’ve hired budding masochists for your films. Today, Shawn Lee seems like a normal young adult in a relationship according to his Facebook page despite being viciously attacked by Neo before puberty. Didn’t think he needed ‘safeguarding’ by the likes of MDA, an agency known for doing more damage ‘protecting’ the public than doing nothing at all.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 12.39.22 PM

Tough love Jack Neo style

You don’t hear anybody complaining about I Not Stupid’s violence against children, nor children inflicting violence on themselves (Shawn’s character considered SUICIDE by jumping) because its attempt at sociopolitical satire overshadowed all explicit depictions of child abuse. In fact, Neo’s film was lauded by the British, for whom caning or smacking children is ILLEGAL. Most locals tend not to gasp and cover their eyes at such scenes, not because we routinely mete out corporal punishment ourselves, but we can understand why some parents resort to smacking Singaporean kids about. For those at the end of their tether but struggling to hold back, you could even say they’re envious of it. But why harp on tortured child actors when women are getting slapped left-right-centre in Taiwanese soap operas?

Let’s hope it’s not just a case of forbidden fruit and Western parents’ secret desire to throttle their unruly kids that earned Ilo Ilo its 15-minute standing ovation triumph at Cannes, that the movie won its prize not because people are drawn to Singaporean kids being ass-whipped as they are to North Korean kids playing hopscotch. If MDA censors Ilo Ilo because of scenes depicting child cruelty, perhaps another Hong Lim protest is in order. We could call it #FreeMyIloIlo, but that would sound too much like a protest about pasta.

Doh’mestic violence

Abortion destroys families and the nation

From ‘Abortion destroys nation building’, 2 April 2013, Voices, Today

(Edmund Leong Meng Tsi): It is indeed “Time again to review abortion laws” (April 1), considering the long-term emotional harm on post-abortive women. Some of them are adversely affected and are easier to identify, as they suffer visibly. Much is known about the treatments for them.

Literature on abortion suggests that “unaffected” women harden their hearts instead. Cognitive dissonance hinders their ability to love properly because they had denied love to their closest kin through abortion, and yet must continue to extend love and show compassion to others throughout their lives.

They feared a tiny human so much as to eliminate it, and will subconsciously guard against bigger humans by building walls around their hearts. I believe that when the heart of the family is compromised, the entire family is affected. Emotional strains can tear families apart, and the effects can be passed to future generations.

Singapore’s nation-building efforts are inadvertently being foiled not only because 12,000 babies are aborted annually, but because women are offered an easy way out of adversity.

Abortion is biased towards self-interest by eliminating another’s interest, thereby destroying families and the nation. We must instead utilise all means to keep babies and their mothers alive, physically and emotionally. Adoption is the better choice.

The issue of legalised abortion has been fought over by pro-lifers, pro-choicers, feminists, religious folks, moral philosophers, doctors and politicians for ages, and we will probably never understand enough about the human consciousness or even what ‘life’ means to come to a consensus on the ‘rights and wrongs’ of terminating a ‘potential’ human being. So instead people focus on abortion as a matter of disrupting the natural order of how society traditionally grows. Even more so now that we’re facing a dearth of babies and on surface it would seem logical to assume that one unaborted baby equals to +1 population. If only it were that simple.

In the eighties, loss of babies who could be borne of educated couples was deemed a shame and a loss of productive citizenry. A writer known only as PGT lamented the loss of ‘educated genes’ which would have given rise to ‘smarter babies’. Husbands whose wives went for revenge abortions decried them for ‘the break up of an otherwise happy marriage and family relationship’. Our ‘over-liberal’ abortion laws would also supposedly encourage more people to ‘change bed-partners without any sense of responsibility’. The fact is we have been promiscuous and having unwanted babies way before surgical abortion even existed. The difference is being skewered with a blade on an operating theatre vs drinking some awful tasting folk remedy concocted by your witch-doctor that would scramble your foetus into a bloody pulp before you shed its mushy corpse out through your genitalia. Even today, you’d find dead or barely alive infants in toilets, rubbish chutes or buried in the ground. We always had a means of killing the unborn if we wanted to, with varying success, but nations didn’t get ‘destroyed’ and families still thrived.

If one could ‘destroy’ a nation by depriving it of babies and have abortion turning us all into promiscuous devil-may-care lunatics who scrimp on condoms, neither is it a good idea to have children borne out of mothers who wanted them eliminated out of their uteri in the first place. The simplistic answer to unloved babies would be adoption, but that’s assuming every rejected baby will automatically be shuffled away from a ‘hardened’, emotionless mother and nurtured in a warm, loving home where stepparents make them Eggs Benedict for breakfast everyday.

There are as many complications of reluctant birth as there are to terminating pregnancies. What if no one wants your baby? If your chronically depressed mother told you she had wanted to abort you but was forced to relent at the last minute, and she couldn’t find anyone to take over maternal duties because you were such an ugly infant with all sorts of respiratory problems, how would that make you feel? Even if you found yourself a home, what if your foster parents, though initially enthusiastic about the whole adoption thing, turn out to be really terrible people who wish they had picked someone else from the orphanage? What if you found out that you were conceived after your mother was gang-raped and she couldn’t bear to put you down? Neither choice is, as the writer proclaimed, an ‘easy way out of adversity’, nor do women who face the abortion dilemma necessarily FEAR that tiny human like it was the devil’s spawn. Tell that to the rape victim, the single unemployed mom with quintuplet foetuses, or the mother who realises her baby’s got a monstrous physical defect or severe Down’s syndrome.

We can do little about sex-starved teenagers and religious attitudes towards contraception, but it’ll take more than a nasty pre-abortion video, or haranguing anti-abortionist men who speak about post-abortion psyche as if they’ve been through it themselves, to keep the deaths of the unborn in check.

Double-barrelled surname sounding like CNY

From ‘Bound together in name’, 30 Dec 2012, article by Lisabel Ting, Sunday Lifestyle

When freelance writer Yu-Mei Balasingamchow was in school, examinations were more of a nightmare for her than for most other students. “It was really troublesome to fill in my name on optical answer sheets. Sometimes, by the time I was done, it felt like half the exam had gone by,” says the 38-year-old.

Ms Balasingamchow’s unique last name is an amalgam of the names of her parents – Chow is her Chinese mother’ family name, and Balasingam is the name of her half-Chinese, half-Ceylonese father.

Her parents created it to “give people an idea of my heritage, although they did acknowledge that it would be troublesome”, she says.

…Double-barrelled surnames such as Ms Balasingamchow’s seem to be more acceptable now, and raise fewer eyebrows than in previous generations.

Mrs Wendy Chiang-Cheong, 40, who wed in 1998, recounts that her mother did not take similar steps to retain her family name as it was uncommon then.

…Mrs Chiang-Cheong, who is married to a 41-year-old IT project manager, admits that her last name can be quite a mouthful. “Some people have told me that my last name sounds very noisy and reminds them of Chinese New Year,” says the counsellor.

If you’re a member of British royalty in the 1930’s you could collect women surnames like Pokemon. There was an Earl of Buckinghamshire called John Hampden Hobart-Hampden-Mercer-Henderson, which made it much easier to just refer to him as the Earl of Buckinghamshire. Today if you want to sound like a conqueror you don’t need multiple surnames. You just need to give yourself a name like Romeo Tan. 

Having a double-barrelled surname that is onomatopoeia for cymbals clamging or almost a soundalike for a dim sum staple is awkward, but not as awful as the wacky permutations that Tweeters contributing to the hashtag #SurnameMashups have come up with. Here’s a sample of dual combinations of Chinese surnames that you may wish to avoid adopting or bequeathing to your children:

Hong-Gan, Chee-Tan, Long-Kang, Yam-Seng, Ngiam-Kheng, Seow-Leow. And the list goes on.

Some would use hyphenated/combined surnames to their advantage as a killer ice-breaker and personal marketing tool. Yu-Mei Balasingamchow herself mentioned in an interview that her surname made her more ‘Google-able’. Try it yourself (type Balasingamchow) and you’ll find her filling the entire first search page. And just about every page thereafter.

Even if, thankfully, your double-barrelled name doesn’t sound like food, drains, toasting or Hokkien expletives, there’s the question of order: Husband or wife’s surname first? This was a question posed since the early 1980s, when women were already using such combinations professionally. Without any formal convention on how hyphenated names should be arranged, you’d have people second guessing your actual maiden name.  Or perhaps the order is chosen solely to avoid the catastrophic reverse; Tan-Chee, for instance.

In fact, double-barrelled names were actively DISCOURAGED by the Registry of Births in 1981, when there was the possibility of quadruple surnames if two individuals with dual surnames married and had children. Things would get more complicated if you were of mixed race. If you took up your Caucasian husband’s name entirely, you may be accused of ‘selling out’ your Asian heritage. Yet, too much cross-fertilisation to the extent of triple and quadruple-barrells would make you sound like a theory discovered by a team of physicists or mathematicians rather than an actual person. And if pulled off creatively, that may not be a bad thing after all.

Vulgar RI teacher reported to Police and 2 Ministers

From ‘RI takes action against teacher’, 8 Dec 2012, article by May Chen, ST

RAFFLES Institution (RI) is taking disciplinary action against one of its teachers, Mr Adrian Chng, for using inappropriate language – even though he did not do so in his capacity as an RI teacher. The Straits Times reported on Thursday that Chew Jee Yang, 17, a Singapore Polytechnic student and member of the national youth softball team, had filed a police report against Mr Chng, the team manager, for his use of expletives in a WhatsApp group chat with three co-captains of the squad. Wang Zheng Rong, 18, also took issue with Mr Chng’s choice of words, although Chin Ken Min, 19, distanced himself from the complaints.

…Mr Chng, RI’s assistant head of the physical education and co-curricular activities department, is also the secretary-general of the Singapore Baseball and Softball Association. Mr Chng and the three players had been discussing preparations for an overseas tournament in Argentina last month in the WhatsApp conversation, which took place in September. In it, he used expletives such as “f***” no fewer than four times.

A complaint against Mr Chng was also later e-mailed to several parties – including Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong – by Chew and Wang’s mothers.

…AN EXCERPT of one of the exchanges Mr Chng had with his student-athletes.

The conversation was in response to the teacher, who was functioning as a team manager, chasing the boys for jersey and slacks sizes ahead of an overseas trip. He had lamented that time was “tight”.

  • Zheng Rong: Frankly speaking time can’t be tight time runs at a constant speed! HAHAH!
  • Teammate: Lol
  • Adrian Chng: U better make sure ur a** super tight if not de bat I’m gonna stuff in there is gonna fall out

Maybe it’s not Adrian Chng’s profanity that the MOTHERS of these teenagers are worried about, but that he could be a dangerous bat-wielding sodomiser who preys on innocent virgin boys. This is how the accused looks like according to the SBSA (Singapore Baseball and Softball Association) website. You can’t deny the respectability of a suit and tie.

By now, getting the police involved in teacher-student spats isn’t surprising anymore. It has been done for teachers who’re too stern, or those who ruin expensive haircuts before important examinations. What’s disturbing is these budding athletes have their mummies complaining to MINISTERS for abusive, sexually charged, language. When Chew and Wang enlist into the army, is Mummy going to complain to Ng Eng Hen for homophobic verbal abuse by drill sergeants as well? Or feedback to SAF that no one tucks them in to sleep at night?

Perhaps Chng as team manager was doing a favour and prepping the boys for a hard NS life, where threats of sodomy with random objects are used in place of ‘Good Morning Recruits!’. Or he was just doing what most sports team managers would do to discipline their charges, regardless of whether their day job was teaching in a prestigious school or preaching from a pulpit. I thought we’ve come to accept that angry, ‘macho’ profanity in the management of competitive sport is all part of team camaraderie, whether it’s boys’ softball, men’s rugby or in a bikini beach volleyball World Cup tournament. The only sports coach who doesn’t need to resort to potty-mouthing is the one in charge of seniors’ Gateball.

What is known is that Chng is apparently doing a good job with RI softball. Earlier this year, the RI team beat Hwa Chong for their fifth national school’s title in 6 years. God knows if a fiery personality and foul language were part of his coaching methodology, but it seems to work for RI. It was just unfortunate that Chng’s obscenities were documented in Whatsapp group chat this time round. If every testosterone-charged team coach or manager was caught F-bombing or mentally ass-raping his squad and summoned by the police or ministers because of distraught parents, what hope is there for youth sports in this country? What if Chng wasn’t from RI but from a ‘neighbourhood school’ instead? Would the boys and their mothers let him off then? Maybe these boys and their parents have been watching too much of Disney’s Angels in the Outfield.

Even if Chng were indeed using foul language on a student in the capacity of an educator, is a police report even necessary? In 2008, a CCA teacher reportedly cursed and sweared at his ex-student for not greeting him properly.  Private tutors have been known to lash out at hopeless students on Facebook.  But in most cases it’s often the teacher at the receiving end of a student’s fury. In a reversal of the case above, a distressed teacher called the police to report a Hokkien-vulgarity spewing pupil in 2008. Another RJC teacher had to respond to a vulgar Facebook post online about not being able to ‘fxxxing control the class’. Many petty obscenities hurled at unpopular teachers are often ignored, because students heaping scorn on a teacher is expected – it even bonds them with fellow students – but not the other way round, even if such ‘motivational’ expletives are the secret to a softball team’s success.

Without a full picture of the relationship between Chng and his boys, one can’t tell if he was indeed abusing his authority or was just being his normal foul-mouthed self and was marked for some unknown reason. I’m guessing that it’s his ties with an elite school which may have inflamed any misgivings between the parties involved. In the meantime, if you’re in the business of playing a sport that uses anything with a handle, be it a softball bat or a croquet mallet, making nerdy jokes to your coach about ‘time-tightness’ may not be the smartest thing to do. If you’re a teacher suffering from Tourette’s syndrome, delete Whatsapp off your phone with immediate effect.


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